Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Question Period and Television

Tasha Kheirridin has a nice piece in the Post today about saving Question Period. She makes the common argument that the introduction of television is a principal cause of the decline of Question Period. I think the essence of this article is that the demands of television make for shorter, more sensational questions. The second order effects, I imagine, is that this type of debate and coverage trickles all the way down into other political reporting. 

But is this true? However plausible, I've yet to see convincing evidence that the introduction of TV actually changed QP. Moreover, I can imagine equally plausible reasons why QP would have featured poor debate even prior to the introduction of TV. It seems like a great dissertation topic, and one that could pretty convincingly be demonstrated through some modelling and textual analysis. It would be helpful for our own debate over the topic, as well. 

1 comment:

Kim Dionne said...

I don't know that his dissertation gets at the answer you're looking for, but a friend from UCLA (now at Michigan) wrote about Question Time. I'm curious what is meant by the "decline" in Question Period, especially with the introduction of TV. My limited knowledge of Rob's dissertation is that broadcasting QT on TV might actually be "good" for democracy. From his abstract:

I argue that QTs featuring shorter speeches, surprise questions, and more vitriol are more likely to induce citizen engagement with politics than are more staid, structured, and civil QTs. This is because the more vitriolic, circus-like "open QTs" provide more newsworthy material for the media and are more accessible and enjoyable for citizens, who encounter QT on the evening news and in the newspaper. One important implication of my argument is that politics engages citizens better when politicians dispense with elite-level discourse and debate issues in everyday language.

Sure, it might seem less civil, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's "bad."

Here's the Proquest link to his dissertation.